Moral of the television drama about abortion? It is always the right time to do the right thing

By Dave Andrusko

I did not see the March 22 episode of ABC’s The Good Doctor, so I am relying on Karen Townsend’s thoughtful and full overview. Please read her story, which we have reposted. I’d like to add just a couple of important additional considerations.

The story centers around “The Good Doctor” —Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore)—and his girlfriend—Lea Dilallo (Paige Spara)—who is unexpectedly pregnant. This is not a “typical” potential abortion  drama in the sense that these are high-powered professionals: “Shaun is entering a demanding career as a surgeon and Lea is building her career in computer technology at the hospital.”

But what the screenwriters have done is capture the core of why so many unplanned pregnancies tragically result in abortions but others don’t.

First and foremost, is that Shaun and Lea read–and misread–cues. They each write a “list” of pros and cons. Evidently, Shaun wants their baby—one of his “pros” is “I think I would be a good father…” Lea reinforces that conclusion—“ You’d make a great dad. It’s on my list.” 

But  Shaun seems to be either wanting to get out of what he just said or wants still more assurance from Lea, either about her faith in his capacities as a father or her desire to go forward, or both. (Needless to say, Lea is the one who truly needs reassurance!)

Thus the key early conclusion:

Shaun: You were right. It is very complicated. But I do know… …I want you to be happy, Lea. 

Lea: I have so many reasons to do this. And so many doubts. I’m just scared, Shaun. But if we are both having doubts, then maybe now isn’t the right time

Townsend writes, “Clearly, they both want a baby but are nervous about how their lives will change and doubts cloud their judgment. The decision to abort their baby seems half-hearted.”

With neither the Mom nor the Dad fully committed—and both  probably thinking their partner isn’t either—the baby is in dire straits. Townsend offers this conclusive exchange:

Nurse: Lea Dilallo?

Shaun: She called your name.

Lea: I spent all day reminding myself of all the reasons why this was a good idea. But now that it’s actually happening, it…doesn’t make me feel any better. It just makes me feel really sad. Maybe it’s not the right time, but will it ever be?

Shaun: I feel the same.

Lea: Are we really doing this?

Shaun: We are having a baby. Yes.

Lea: Yeah?

Again, this is a television drama so a lot of material, a lot of inner dialogue and conflict, is omitted. But we can know for sure that …

Lea is the courageous one. They’re in the abortion clinic and her name has been called. She gives Shaun one last chance—“ Maybe it’s not the right time, but will it ever be?.” In so doing, she provides him the opportunity to reveal what Shaun is truly feeling rather than what Shaun thinks Lea would want him to say.

We all know intuitively and by experience that in such a crisis, a woman is probing the man’s heart. Shaun has given her just enough reason to believe he wants Lea not to abort for her to ask one last time, not just what he wants, but what Shaun wants for the three of  them. 

Shaun reaffirms the obvious—that there may never be the “right time”—but also that it is always the right time to do the right thing.